tisdag 27 april 2010

Traditional British anti-Catholicism in full flood


Lewes bonfire night, originally uploaded by ec1jack.
Good old British anti-Catholicism seems to be in full flood following the current problems. It is well explained on a Marxist interpretation. After the Conquest, lands were granted to the church to enable it to provide services such as education, health and welfare. At the Reformation, the lands were transferred to those nobility who supported the king, in some cases by fraud. It was in their interest that the new status quo be held and so the old one was demonised.

The case of the Westminster Abbey lands is typical of what happened in the century after the dissolution of the monasteries, eventually forming the basis of the present Duke of Westminster's fortune. There was in fact strong popular resistance to the Reformation in England and elsewhere on the Continent, in particular the Pilgrimages of Grace, which were brutally put down by the authorities. This does not suggest that the pre-Reformation Catholic church was the evil body that it was subsequently portrayed as.

There is lots not to like about the Catholic church: the behaviour of some of the clergy, over many years, its dogmas, which obviously sound far-fetched, and much else besides, but the tone of much of the comment that is floating around at the moment reveal nothing more than crude bigotry in the Ulster Prod/ Lewes bonfire night vein.

There were stupid and cruel things done by both sides in the aftermath of the Reformation. England's Queen Mary created a clutch of Protestant martyrs, but so had Henry VIII, and it continued until as late as 1681 when the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Oliver Plunkett was set up and hung, drawn and quartered. As late as 1780, the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots went on for a week, with widespread disturbances in London.

There were also strange alliances in the post-Reformation period. Catholic France was on the same side as Protestant Sweden in the Thirty Years' War and it was the (aspiring at that time) Catholic Queen Kristina of Sweden who took the initiative and put a stop to the wretched thing before abdicating.

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